School heads urge parents to sign petition on funding

Headteachers at North East schools have written to more than 300,000 parents over fears that tighter funding has created a “make-or-break” situation.

The letter urges parents to sign a parliamentary petition to increase budgets and encourages them to write to their MPs.

The letter, which started to be distributed on December 7, suggests that average funding will be down by £189,776 per North East secondary school in 2019/20 compared with 2015/16.

It says: “Schools are having to make difficult choices on how to spend their limited funding as their income has not kept pace with the rise in costs since 2010.

“All schools are working very hard to make ends meet but this is becoming increasingly difficult and verging on almost impossible.

“With increased pressures on school budgets and cuts to services that support our most vulnerable young people and their families, it is make-or-break time for our schools.”

The letter, supported by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), also says average funding in the North East is expected to be down by £30,904 per primary school in 2019/20 compared with 2015/16.

Parents are told that, as a result, schools have had to cut back on teaching staff, support for more vulnerable pupils, and free or subsidised extracurricular activities.

The letter adds: “From March 2018 there has been a very small increase in funding for schools.

“However, this increase has not closed the gap between the funding our school receives and the funding our school needs to provide the number of teachers and resources required to deliver the education all our children deserve.

“If you think Government should fund schools sufficiently and fairly, please show your support.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said the Government “continues to use misleading figures about school funding and standards”, adding: “This needs to stop, and parents need to be told the truth.”

Mustafaa Malik, head of Harlow Green Community Primary School in Gateshead, said the financial situation for schools has become “critical”.

He said: “Schools have an ever-increasing part to play in supporting children and their wider families, but this is being expected whilst our resources are reducing.

“In the end, it is the children within our communities who will suffer – they deserve better.”

Peter King, head of the Federation of Mowden Schools in Darlington, said: “School leaders have previously tried to shield parents from the difficulties but because the situation is not sustainable, we now need parents to be fully aware.

“There simply are not the savings to be made that can make up for the huge shortfall in our funding. It feels very unfair to our children and to our staff.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Every child, regardless of where they grow up, deserves a high-quality education.

“That’s why we have launched Opportunity North East, backed by a £24 million investment, to boost opportunities and improve outcomes for young people across the North East region.

“Under the National Funding Formula, the North East will receive an increase of 2.5% per pupil for its schools by 2019-2020, compared to 2017-18 funding levels – which is an increase of £55.6 million when rising pupil numbers are also taken into account.”

The spokesman said more money is going into schools “than ever before”, adding that support is being given to “make the most of every pound”.

6th Form, LifeWeb editor